Raising taxes now easier for Washington lawmakers

05:33 PM PDT on Monday, April 18, 2005

From KING 5 News Staff and Wire reports

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Governor Christine Gregoire signed a bill into law Monday that will make it easier for the Legislature to raise taxes.

The new law allows the Legislature to raise taxes with a simple majority vote for the next two years, rather than the two-thirds supermajority required by voter-approved Initiative 601.

"I'm one who believes in a majority vote to be perfectly honest with you," Gregoire said.

During the signing, Republicans protested in the back of the room, wearing stickers saying 'RIP Initiative 601."

The new law also changes the state spending limit, tying it to personal income growth rather than the more limited population growth plus inflation.

Initiative 601 was a citizen initiative voters passed 12 years ago that required lawmakers to get a two-thirds vote before raising taxes.


Republican lawmakers sported their feelings on thier lapels as Washingotn Gov. Christine Gregoire signed a bill short circuiting some of the tax-limiting parts of citizen Initiative 601.

The measure also put limits on how much the state could spend by tying the state budget to population and inflation.

"The public voted they wanted to see government controls and now we're basically just wiping that out," Thurston County Sen. Gary Alexander.

Gregoire says that legislators have been finding ways to avoid the spending limit for years, and she wants to have a realistic spending limit. The governor also says she believes it's proper to have the majority rule on taxes.

"Health care inflation for example, health care costs are about 35 percent of our state budget, and they're going up at 19 percent," said Seattle Sen. Jim McIntire.

Under the new law, pending limits will be based on personal income growth starting in 2007.

Democrats will also close loopholes so future spending limits will be calculated more fairly.

As for this year, raising taxes with a simple majority vote takes effect immediately, paving the way for Democrats to raise a combination of estate taxes, liquor taxes and cigarette taxes. Republicans are resigned not having the votes to stop the plan.

And they weren't happy about it.

"There are no spending restraints. There are no taxing restraints and that's really unfortunate, and after the governor's election last fall, that was not the message the people of Washington were sending," said Sen. Glenn Anderson, R. Fall City.

Gregoire said Monday that she couldn't remember how she voted on Initiative 601.


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